Examination of Witnesses(Questions 60-72)|
TUESDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2002
60. Just look at the Foreign Office which probably
has as many offices as the British Council. Where is tourism in
the Foreign Office, in the embassies and consulates? How many
people look after tourism in those offices, since they have a
(Mr Quarmby) There are none. They work with the BTA.
61. What is the point?
(Mr Quarmby) What is the point of what?
62. Surely the BTA should be inside the FCO.
(Mr Quarmby) No. Often the best place for us is on
the high street where people who are interested in tourism come
in. The location does not matter. The important thing is that
we work closely with the embassies and the consulates in cities
where we have an office and we greatly appreciate the support
that the much larger organisation gives to us. In many places
we are a four or five person office. We get great benefit by working
and having the support of the foreign postings.
(Mr Wright) We are running call centres, information
provision, in 27 countries. It is not necessarily the right location
to have those in the centre of a city.
(Mr Quarmby) Indeed only last week the Foreign Office
launched their new i-uk.com website, which is information all
about the UK and BTA has provided a substantial chunk of material
into that website and the website itself links through to the
BTA websites. That is based on a project done in Japan to provide
exactly that integrated website for the market in Japan.
63. Two small issues. One is about airports
and the kind of greeting you get when you arrive in an airport
must surely be very important. I remember the first time I went
to New York arriving and as you got off the aeroplane there was
a big sign saying "Welcome home for US citizens" and
there was an escalator up to immigration. Then it said "Aliens
this way" and there was a very steep staircase. Sometimes
it feels a bit like that in British airports. It is as though
foreigners are not really welcome. Some of them are pretty manky
and distressing buildings and pretty distressed for that matter
as well. What work do you do with BAA to make sure that our airports
are welcoming? One thing I know you did was that when we arrived
at Manchester for the Commonwealth Games the first photo, the
big sign I saw as I came off the aeroplane was a great big picture
of Ascot which was yours, it was BTA's. I thought it was a bizarre
way of advertising Britain. You cannot buy a ticket to Ascot if
you have only just arrived, it is a very curious aspect of Britain
to be publicising.
(Mr Quarmby) The Only in Britain campaign which
has run this year has includedand the English Tourism Council
administered this on our behalf, for which we are very gratefula
considerable amount of activity within the UK, including welcome
posters at airports, welcome packs, welcome packs through tourist
information centres, etcetera. For the first time, we have seriously
addressed the question of welcoming foreign visitors. Whether
it is a picture of Ascot in Manchester, okay, that might not have
been the appropriate image there, the important thing is that
it is a welcoming image of Britain and a welcome message. In fact
there was plenty of other welcome to say "This is the home
of the Commonwealth Games", as you will have been aware.
We have been very assiduously auditing the quality of welcome
that visitors to the UK get. In fact we did a study two or three
(Mr Donoghue) Yes, we undertook a study about two
years ago called First Impressions and we sent a copy to
all the members of the Committee. One of the things we did was
to try to identify how the greeting and the services at British
points of entry could be benchmarked against other international
competitors. We drew up a number of recommendations which we passed
not only to DCMS but to all relevant government departments. One
of the things which has arisen over the course of the last two
years is the ministerial summit on tourism, which brings together
a number of ministers from across Whitehall and now also the devolved
administrations to look at their joint responsibilities for tourism,
picking up on something Mr Wyatt said. One of the things we think
the Department of Transport and BAA and others, ports as well,
can do is to improve their welcome to overseas visitors, to improve
some of the facilities, particularly signage, which in some cases
is poor and in other cases excellent. If you would like another
copy of First Impressions I am happy to send it after this
64. Sticking with airports, you may be aware
that quite a few potential travellers when arriving for internal
British flights and when asked for photo ID of course do not necessarily
have photo ID and perhaps if you are an unusual traveller, which
might perhaps be because you are going to a funeral or something
like that, not only will the carrier refuse to carry you, but
also will insist that they will not repay you. Do you think that
(Mr Quarmby) I am afraid I personally am not aware
of that practice at the moment.
(Mr Donoghue) Yes, that is exclusively for domestic
flights. One of the things we do have is a concordat or a memorandum
of understanding with the Immigration Service and that is where
we have our interface in terms of overseas visitors coming in,
who will of course have sufficient ID. As far as I am aware the
issue of not having ID has not been raised if you travel domestically.
Mr Bryant: Several of us will have stories
of somebody realising that they had to take ID, taking along their
birth certificate, being the only thing they have because they
do not drive, in the normal course of life they do not have a
cheque guarantee card or anything like that, going to a funeral
and not being able to attend the funeral because the carrier refused
to carry them and then subsequently British Airways refusing to
refund the cost of the flight even. That seems to me patently
Rosemary McKenna: It is the low cost
carriers. If you book through the internet it actually says on
the booking form, but not everyone reads all the small print on
the booking form, that you have to take ID with you, usually a
Chairman: May I add to that? In fact
Ryanair lies about what their responsibilities are. I had a constituent
who had booked a ticket with Ryanair to Dublin and it said on
the ticket that it was refundable. She had to go back to Manchester
for a medical emergency and they would not refund it. The only
way I got it back for her was by writing to the Prime Minister
of Ireland who forced them to do it.
65. You say in your evidence that the exchange
rate is the single largest external influence on inbound tourism.
Does that mean that you think the British tourism industry would
benefit if we were to join the euro?
(Mr Quarmby) Whether or not the exchange rate at which
we would join the euro, if we did, were to changeand I
am afraid I do not have evidence to support thismy own
belief is that the fact we are a different currency from the rest
of Europe does have a small though probably significant effect
on inbound tourism from Europe and also for long-haul travellers
who do Europe as well as do the United Kingdom. If I were pressed
on an estimate, I would say it was probably worth a percentage
point or two on our inbound tourism earnings. Certainly I have
been aware when I have travelled in Europe and met some Americans
they say that it is just so easy because the euro is about the
same as the dollar but they have to change when they go to the
UK. I am just speaking purely from the visitors' point of view.
Mr Bryant: Your one or two percentage
points are exactly the same as the English Tourism Council is
hoping it could achieve in transforming the number of people staying
in the UK.
66. On the issue of the proposed new bodyto
follow up a point John Thurso made, but mainly because he thrust
a piece of paper in front of me so showing some solidarity with
my Scottish colleaguesit strikes me, looking from the outside
that there is a real danger of conflict of interest and even though
it is not actual, it is certainly likely to be perceived. If you
have any experience, for example, of the press that VisitScotland
has had over the last year, you will maybe see what is coming
to the British Tourist Authority. In the VisitScotland website
they say that for some of Scotland's more established markets
they would like, if they had sufficient resources, to drive their
own marketing from the front using their own overseas representations,
supported where necessary by the BTA. So they put you in a very
minor role as far as their own ambitions are concerned, certainly
in the established market. How do you see that operating in practice
and what effect will this have on your standing, at least in Scotland?
(Mr Quarmby) I can understand entirely the concern
that either the Scottish media or Scottish Members of Parliament,
Members of the Scottish Parliament or others in the industry might
have about us and about the ability to manage what you described
as a potential conflict of interest. My own view is that it is
manageable and it is reinforced by the measures we have already
described, such as the ring-fenced funding, such as the shape
and accountability, such as the BTA's new overseas marketing strategy
which has been developed in very close consultation with the Scottish
and Welsh Tourist Boards, indeed as with the regions of England
too. Of course there will be a perception problem. There are still
some in the Scottish media now who say that BTA cannot possibly
do a decent job for Scotland because they are London-centric and
London based. Fortunately those who know us in the Scottish industry,
those on Scottish Enterprise and the Lifelong Learning Committee,
in front of whom we appeared only two or three weeks ago in Inverness,
have seen the whites of our eyes, understood something of our
work, seen our outputs, do not share that view. We have a basis
on which to provide the reassurance about how we manage this.
(Mr Wright) May I just explain to you how we work
and will continue to work with VisitScotland? VisitScotland have
a number of priority markets around the world, but by no means
all of the 27 markets which we currently represent Britain in.
Therefore the strategy is very clear. They can choose their primary
markets. They have four or five core markets which they are critical
for inbound tourism to Scotland and they can piggyback all our
infrastructure and resource and focus all their marketing investment
on adding value very specifically to Scotland. Then there are
other markets where they want us to take the lead because they
are secondary markets and the same is true for the Wales Tourist
Board. The Wales Tourist Board already have an overseas representative
who sits in our New York office, focuses very specifically on
promoting Wales as being two hours from London and piggybacks
all the work we do collectively for Britain in those markets.
It is horses for courses and every overseas market is different
in the way it sees Wales, England, Scotland, Britain. We have
that understanding, we have a specialism; we have the call centres,
the websites. That then allows the devolved nations to really
focus their marketing investment on making a difference for the
markets which are most critical. They are very comfortable with
that strategy, as are we, moving forward.
(Mr Quarmby) We provide trade relations on the spot,
we provide the call centres, we provide the facilities to bring
journalists over; something like 130 journalists have come to
this country to write about Scotland from overseas. We provide
the facility to handle all enquiries, we distribute the print,
even in Scotland's established markets. We provide the platform
on which every pound which VisitScotland spends goes straight
into the market.
67. Let me move on to a general question. You
heard the point I raised earlier with the English Tourism Council.
As an amateur and an outside observer what I picked up when I
read through the papers, or it seemed to me anyway, was a lack
of long-term strategy. Just developing some of the points which
have come from colleagues, the reference Mr Wyatt made for example
to British Council, it does seem to me that you tend to operate
in a bit of a vacuum. For the fifth biggest industry that we have,
that is a dangerous place to be. It strikes me, and we had the
suggestion from Ms Lynch at the English Tourism Council, that
the new body will be responsible for developing longer-term strategy.
I can understand that. How will that merge in with the point Mr
Donoghue made about the ministerial conference? It seems to me
it has to get below ministers and work alongside the Department
of Trade and Industry and the various other departments which
are appropriate to boost this industry and give it a proper profile.
(Mr Quarmby) There are levels here. There is a level
at which the professionals in the tourist boards can draw together
the elements of a strategy, which it has not been easy to do up
to now with four different bodies. You may know of an initiative
by the three current national tourist boards of England, Wales
and Scotland, to come together, it is called Tourism UK, to work
with the industry and to develop a clear strategy for tourism
and BTA has been part of that. The new organisation will make
it easier to generate that synergy between the national tourist
boards and with the industry to help take a lead at the professional
level. It needs to be supported and endorsed and owned by ministers.
One of the things we look forward to is UK ministers getting together.
(Mr Donoghue) It can be argued that there are several
different tourism strategies for the United Kingdom. There is
certainly a Welsh strategy, there is a Scottish tourism strategy,
there is a DCMS tourism strategy which was launched three years
ago and which ministers accept needs a great deal of refreshing
68. Whatever happened to that?
(Mr Donoghue) It was launched very successfully and
we implemented those bits we had responsibility for.
69. Please let me make absolutely clearand
I am sure this goes for my colleagues as wellthat not a
single word of questioning is meant as criticism of yourselves.
(Mr Donoghue) Thank you very much. In that spirit,
I shall continue. It does need refreshing now because it spoke
of another age, it spoke of a tourism time before Foot and Mouth
and before September 11. It clearly had not anticipated the announcement,
as indeed we had not anticipated the announcement of last week,
and it also created the English Tourism Council out of the English
Tourist Board. Clearly the British strategy, and the English strategy
as far as DCMS is concerned, need refreshing. More than that,
however, it needs to take account of the realities of devolution,
not least of which is that it has been the case over the course
of the last 18 months that each of the nations of the United Kingdom
has had differing and sometimes conflicting demands of BTA. One
of the things we drew this Committee's attention to when we appeared
before you last April was the need for clarity about growing the
size of the tourism cake for the whole of the United Kingdom rather
than perhaps individual Scottish or Welsh slices of that cake.
The announcement last week enables us to do two things. One is
to have a lead agency bringing together for the first time England's
national coherent domestic marketing and that is something I think
everybody applauds. The second is to plough more resources, in
terms of personnel or money, into the promotion of the whole of
Britain and therefore more money and more promotion of Scotland
and Wales overseas with the intention of closing that deficit
gap. All of that is going to be difficult to achieve, but not
impossible. We are incredibly enthusiastic about the new role
we have been given. We are greatly heartened by the fact that
the devolved administrations have welcomed this decision and are
prepared to work with us. Only yesterday I was in Cardiff liaising
with the tourism units in the Welsh Assembly government about
what some of those objectives might be and similarly will be in
Edinburgh tomorrow doing the same thing with the Scottish Executive.
It is going to be a tough job, but we will do it.
70. That is still tourism talking to tourism.
I did raise the point about the vacuum. Locate in Scotland, the
regeneration body which attempts to draw resources into Scotland,
works very closely with VisitScotland. There is a synergy there.
Scotland is a good place to live, to visit, to invest in. You
made a throwaway remark earlier about training; you said you are
not responsible for training and that is somebody else's job.
That strikes me as a problem if you are responsible for quality.
Who can address the training issue but you because you know the
standards you require. You operate in a vacuum. How are you going
to get out of that vacuum?
(Mr Quarmby) You make a fair point and when government
sets up agencies such as ours to do specific jobs, government
has to own the task of providing the glue which brings them together.
For example, in terms of overseas, tourism is not the only thing
which Britain is concerned about in its dealings with the rest
of the world. One of the initiatives which we greatly welcome,
which Tom Wright is involved in, is Sir Michael Jay at the Foreign
Office now chairing the Public Diplomacy Strategy Board, which
is attempting to bring together all different agencies which deal
with the rest of the world, whether it is tourism, whether culture
and education, whether trade development, whether investment,
as well as the Foreign Office's own diplomatic tasks.
71. When is that going to report?
(Mr Wright) It is an ongoing board.
72. Who takes over when he goes to Washington?
(Mr Wright) The dates for that board are arranged
so that Sir Michael is there. We meet fairly frequently.
Chairman: I am very sorry, I am going
to have to bring this to an end. We have overrun our time. We
could have gone on for a lot longer. May I thank my colleagues
for their lines of questioning and restraint in terms of time?
May I compliment you on standing up to the fusillade of questions
about a situation which is not of your making, but which you have
to make work? Thank you.